Young mother putting baby in the car seat.

Car Seat Safety Recommendations

Many parents come to me with questions about what car seat is best for their child. This is an extremely important question because a car seat needs to be tailored to your child’s size and age – and be installed properly – to ensure they are safe and avoid injury when riding in the car.

The America Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recently updated the guidelines on car safety seats recommending that children remain rear-facing for as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their car seat manufacturer.

Previously, the AAP specified children should remain rear-facing at least to age 2 – the new recommendation removes that specific age milestone.

While this can be confusing to some parents who view the transition as a milestone, I like to remind parents that safety is their number one priority and delaying the transition will keep their children protected for as long as possible.

Once your child exceeds the recommended limits for rear facing, it is safe to move them forward facing.  In a forward facing car seat, parents should use one with a 5-point harness as long as possible, up to the height or weight allowed by their car seat manufacturer.  Once limits are reached, you can transition to a booster seat until the vehicle’s lap and shoulder belt fits properly.

There is a misperception that once the child reaches 8 years old they can safely move out of a booster seat, but I like to ask 3 questions to determine if a child is ready to forgo a car seat:

  1. Is the child tall enough to sit against the vehicle seat back with knees bent without slouching?
  2. Does the shoulder belt lie across the middle of the chest and shoulder, not against the neck or face?
  3. Is the lap belt low across the hips and pelvis?

If the answer to any of these questions is no, the child should remain in a booster.

With these new guidelines in mind your child safety in the car will improve. If you want to check to make sure your car seat is properly installed, visit www.safekids.org/events/field_type/check-event for upcoming events. Another resource for more information is www.healthychildren.org.

Meet the Author

Rachael Krause, MD, FAAP

Dr. Krause’s exposure to the field of medicine began at a very early age when she accompanied her parents to doctor visits for her sick sister. It was during these visits that she had first-hand experience observing doctors and got an up-close vi...

Contact Rachael Krause, MD, FAAP